One of the most influential metal guitarists of all time, John 5, has made his rounds throughout the industry and blessed our ears with an unconventional skill level that is felt by coming generations of new musicians and every dose of thunder in the realm of all things heavy metal. Transporting listeners and concertgoers into a dimension of transcendence over snarling riffs and an all-out intensity that is felt deep within your core, the John 5 & The Creatures frontrunner and Rob Zombie guitarist has made a real statement of intent with an identity laced with originality. I caught up with John to discuss the upcoming release of ‘Season of the Witch’, getting tattooed at Sunset Strip Tattoo, balancing artistic mediums, and more.
Congrats on the upcoming release of your ninth studio album, ‘Season of the Witch’. Tell us about the conception of this album and how the creative process was different this time around.
I did something completely different this time around. I have a 13-year-old son, and he and his friends are the future. And I am watching what they are doing; they aren’t even downloading music anymore. They are just streaming and watching YouTube. And that is how people are listening to music…they are watching YouTube. I’ve released a new song and new video once a month for quite awhile, and it really works well because people usually just cherry-pick which songs that they like when you put out a new record on iTunes. So, what I did was put out one song and a video with that song, and it works so well because collectively it’s about two million views and there’s no way that I would have gotten two million spins on the radio. I don’t think anyone gets two million spins on the radio. It really worked out well.
It’s insane how much has changed over your career span. I am assuming that you really had to adjust your perception over time as well because ultimately as you said, no one is getting the two million spins on the radio these days. But, back in the day, that was a bit more feasible.
Exactly. It really works out very well. It was a new experimental thing that worked. So, what I wanted to do is to continue doing that and put out a physical CD, which is coming out on March 3rd, 2017.
Image Credit: Rob Fenn
You are gearin’ up to hit the road for the ‘Season of the Witch’ tour. Any particular spots that you are really looking forward to visiting?
It’s going to be a very long tour. We start March 3rd in Seattle, and then we do between 35-38 shows over 43 days. It’s crazy. It’s a lot of fun and I am really looking forward to it. Here’s the thing; there’s no singer with John 5 and the Creatures. So, there is no singer that needs to rest their voice. There is not one singer that I know that can sing all of those shows in a row; it’s just impossible. So, we are going to knock it out. It’s going to blast.
Right. Not having a band member on vocal rest is huge. So, you guys are heading to The Token Lounge in Westland, Michigan. How does it feel coming back home to Michigan after years of touring the world and experiencing so many different manners of living and walks of life?
Sure. It’s a real pleasure coming home. I grew up playing at The Token and that is where I learned to be on stage. The Token was like my training gym for being in a live atmosphere. It’s a really cool thing to come back. You know, of all of the places to play in Michigan, I have a fondness for The Token. I really enjoy that place and I love the people. I will always play The Token, like I will always play The Whisky in LA. All of these places want me to play, but I grew up playing The Token and The Whisky. Those are the places that I will always play.
Totally. Those places carry memories that are precious tied to nostalgia. I’ve personally seen you play at DTE and major venues, but it’s the passion within the smaller and more intimate venues that is such a treat to observe.
Yeah, it’s wonderful. I love seeing that some of the people that were working at the venues when I was a kid are still working there. It’s crazy.
Awesome. Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite personal pieces and the artists that brought them to life.
I was a huge fan of Sunset Strip Tattoo. I would go to the old Sunset Strip Tattoo and just hang out like on the old TV show, Cheers. People would just hang out. It was Axl Rose, Slash, the Motley Crue guys, and everybody would just hang out. I got my tattoos by the owner, Robert Benedetti, who tattooed everybody. You know that big tattoo on Ozzy’s chest? Robert actually signed it on Ozzy’s chest, so that’s pretty wild. That was the place. Dirty Hollywood kids on the Sunset Strip.
Crazy! Over the years, you have been able to really fluidly balance artistic mediums as guitarist for Rob Zombie and playing in your own band, John 5 & The Creatures. Do you have any words of wisdom for kids jumping between bands or artistic mediums?
First of all, it’s communication. That is number one. It has to be major communication. Not with the manager, not with the agents or not with other band members. I personally communicate directly with Rob. I go right to Rob and let him know when I am thinking of doing something, and that has been the best and the smartest way. It is a lot of work. We are living in a different time. I don’t know one band where at least one guy is not in another band. It’s really interesting.
There are so many supergroups that are coming together with members of a variety of bands, it’s unique to observe at this time.
Yeah. There are so many, which is great. And you know, they could be doing something else. You know, Rob makes major movies. And our bass player, Piggy D, is in another band called The Haxans. And our drummer, Ginger, is a DJ who plays gigs. Everybody has their thing. That is what the norm is these days.
Amongst raising a family…but it’s all worth it.
Yes. I appreciate it. I absolutely love it. It is not even work to me. I am so lucky to be doing what I am doing.
Absolutely. Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?
You know when musicians are on stage and are talking to the crowd? I always talk to the crowd and thank you so much for coming and supporting, and it’s genuine. I don’t have a plan, it’s totally from the heart and every single time, it’s different. I really do appreciate all of the love from the fans. It’s wonderful. I love meeting our fans and talking to them. It’s going to be a busy 2017.
It’s funny that you say that, I’ll personalize this a bit; I remember when I was around 15-16 years old and I was on my way to DTE to catch you with Rob Zombie and I saw you walking out of a restaurant with your family. My friend and I approached you, and you didn’t even remotely hesitate to take the time to chat and connect. That is something that I still remember to this day, and it goes to show with what you just expressed.
I was that kid. It’s so important to be nice, kind and considerate. It’s imperative. People always remember it. It’s so important.